Do you love tomatoes? Cherry, heirloom, roma – few things are as delectable as a mid-summer, vine-ripened, juicy tomato. If you want tomatoes in your garden this year (or even in a pot in your kitchen), here are some tips to keep them strong and healthy while you’re growing them under your indoor greenhouse lights.
How To Grow Tomatoes
Crowding a tomato seedling is one of the quickest ways to kill a tomato plant. Although the rumor that fish grow according to their environment may be a myth, tomatoes do work that way. If they don’t have room to grow, they won’t flourish.
So give them plenty of room, no matter what stage they are in. When in doubt, give them extra room. There can never be too much room. After all, most tomatoes are grown in a garden or in the wild!
Some plants, such as tomatoes, actually require container-upsizing as a critical part of their growth. When the tomato plant is too top-heavy for its small container, it’s time to move it up. After a 4” square container, it’s time to go to gallon-size.
How To Plant Tomatoes In A Bigger Pot
Most tomatoes need to be moved from the pot they came in. Tomatoes will want to grow larger, so it’s important to give them the space to do so. Not to mention, the pots that tomatoes are purchased in are flimsy.
Preparing The Pot
The standard size for a larger pot is one gallon. So, fill a gallon container with potting soil or mix. You can buy great potting soil at any grocery or hardware store. Look for soil with peat moss, pine bark, and perlite or vermiculite.
Also, pay attention to the texture. Good potting soil is fluffy, yet firm. If the soil is too dense, tomatoes can’t grow. But if it’s too thin, it probably doesn’t have enough minerals in it. Finding the balance is key.
After you pour the soil into the pot, dig a hole roughly 4” in diameter. Unless the tomato plant is larger than that, of course. But 4″ is standard. Dig the hole to be slighter deeper than the base of the tomato.
Pull out the tomato plant from its current pot, taking care not to break the stem. If you break the stem, it might kill the tomato, making your previous care taken, futile. So handle the plant with care. It will become heartier later on.
Transplanting The Tomato Plant
After the pot is prepared, it’s time to move the tomato plant over. Use your fingers to lightly break up the roots at the bottom of the root ball before setting your plant into its new home. Be very gentle so you don’t disturb the roots.
After a good part of the old soil is gone, you can begin placing the plant. Place the tomato plant low into the gallon pot, so the root ball is about an inch lower than the new soil level. Tomatoes should always be planted lower than their original pot had them set.
Pruning Your Tomato Plant
If any leaves, like these two original leaves (which look different than other leaves on a tomato plant) fall near or under the new soil line, go ahead and pull them off. They’ve served their purpose and are no longer needed; if they land under the soil, they’ll probably just wilt and potentially mold, so it is better to just remove them now.
After any yellowed or wilted leaves are gone, your tomato plant is on its way to a long, healthy life. So, firm up the soil connection between the old and new soil. Then add soil to make a level top layer.
The root ball should be covered completely as that was the old level. The new level will be slightly higher. Make sure you use the healthy potting soil that you purchased and not just dirt. Tomato plants need vitamins.
Tomato Plant Care
Tomatoes take a lot of care. Anyone can grow a tomato, but they do have to know how to do so. Here are some tips that will help you ensure that your tomato has a long and prosperous life, producing dozens of tomatoes.
Each time you transplant a tomato, you bury the stalk down further in the next-bigger container. This strengthens the stalk and plant overall, so the more you transplant into increasing sizes of containers, the heartier your tomato plant will be.
One way to help tomato plants stay manageable and productive is to trim the suckers off while they are small. Suckers are tiny branch starts that come up between an established branch and the stalk.
They look like hairs on one’s arm when the hair stands up. They serve no purpose but can draw energy away from the main stem, stunting the growth of the tomato plant. So removing them is best.
When you see a sucker, simply pinch (or cut) it off right away. Keeping them on the plant takes energy away from growing and/or producing more fruit. You don’t want a million branches, you want a million delicious tomatoes!
How to Fix Leaning Plants
If your newly transplanted tomato plant leans, you’ll want to support it until it “learns” to grow straight and true. When the plant is large, you can add stakes that are made for that purpose. but when it’s small, there are other solutions.
Stick a bamboo skewer into the soil near, but not on, the stalk. Make sure it doesn’t pierce any part of the tomato. Just stick it an inch or so away so you won’t risk damaging the roots of the tomato plant.
Then, grab an extra-long plastic twist-tie, or zip tie, and loop it loosely around the upper stalk and the bamboo skewer. You can even use string or yarn, just don’t tie it too tight or it will cut the plant in half.
It might be tempting to twist the stalk right onto the bamboo skewer tightly so there’s no give or lean. But this will actually cut into the soft stalk and do perhaps permanent damage, so loose is best.
Give your tomato plant plenty of room to grow while just nudging it into a straight-up growth direction. It needs to choose its own path and simply be guided by you. Forcing it to grow in a specific way will not turn out the way you planned.
Feeding And Watering
Anytime you transplant or do anything that might shock a plant, give it a hearty drink of water afterward to help ease the transition. This means after every time you move it, adjust it, or anything like that.
You will still need to water it every day while it’s growing, but give it extra whenever it is distruubed. If you exercise, you want more water. Well, plants are the same way!
Adult Tomato Plants
After the last frost of the season, plant your tomato plant(s) outside, in a garden plot, a square foot garden, or even a large pot. They do well to be trained up a trellis or cage of some sort; be sure to keep up on removing the suckers. With proper water and sunlight, your tomatoes will grow to be large, beautiful plants with delicious fruit by mid-to-late summer. Enjoy!
Tomato Plant FAQs
Here are the most frequently asked questions about tomato plants.
How Long Does It Take To Grow Tomatoes?
It all depends on when you plant them. Early-season tomatoes will grow in less than two months. Late season tomatoes may take up to three months. And mid-season tomatoes will be somewhere in between.
How Do You Grow Tomatoes In Pots?
Tomatoes can thrive in pots. But after they are adults, they tend to want a larger space to grow. But if you want to continue growing tomatoes in a pot, you can get a large garden pot. If you do this, you will need lattice or a stake to help it grow straight.
How Do you Grow Cherry Tomatoes From Seeds?
Cherry tomatoes grow just like other tomatoes. The only difference is that they are smaller, and thus, more fragile. So be very careful when handling the plants or you may break them. Water them twice a week in mild climates.
How Do You Grow Tomatoes Indoors?
Tomatoes can be grown indoors but it may be difficult. The plants need eight hours of sunlight a day. They also need to be kept at 70 degrees Fahrenheit at least. If the temperature is good, then they may grow near a window or screen door.
What If My Tomatoes Start Cracking?
If a tomato fruit is cracking or bruising, it usually means the plants are being overwatered. So cut back and they should do well. The opposite is true if the tomato plant begins to wilt. So water it more in that case.
Why Are My Tomatoes Brown And Bruised?
If your tomatoes look rotten or brown, they are in need of calcium. Get a potting soil with extra calcium or add calcium directly to the topsoil. This should prevent any more tomatoes from turning out that way but won’t save the ones already ruined.